Can you replicate the experience of walking across the quad, eating in the dining hall, or checking out a dorm room behind your computer? For the time being, college tours are going virtual. As COVID-19 limits traveling and face-to-face interactions for the foreseeable future, you might find yourself taking a virtual tour as a way to explore colleges and universities. While online tours may not replace the in-person experience of campus tours, they can still provide valuable information. Read on for Class Tracker’s tips to make the most of virtual college visits this summer.
Do your research first
While virtual college tours can provide fascinating insight into the appearance of the college and student life, make sure to conduct research before viewing a virtual tour. Find out key information such as the application requirements, admission rate, cost of attending, and academic offerings. If the school fits your needs, then head over to the virtual tour to view the campus and even ask any additional questions. By doing some research in advance, you can narrow down your list of colleges to 10-15 schools to virtually visit. This step will help to avoid sucking you into a never-ending virtual spiral of college tours.
Find the virtual tour of choice
There are many websites out there that offer virtual college tours. Choose one that gives you all the necessary information and also puts you in the shoes of a student. CampusTours provides video tours and interactive campus maps to give you a feel for over 1,800 schools worldwide. YouVisit also provides 360 experiences and virtual reality college visits to more than 600 colleges, with a feature that allows you to ask questions for school officials during the tour. It’s a great way to interact with admissions officers in real time. If you’re interested in learning more about how colleges across the U.S. are responding to COVID-19, check out the National Association for College Admission Counseling’s Status Update. They share each university’s plans for admissions, changes in the application process, and more. For example, it could be good to know how some schools have changed their standardized test policies in light of the pandemic. Lastly, don’t forget to go directly to college’s websites and read their emails to find virtual admissions events that you can attend to learn more.
Consult current students
Virtual tours are awesome, but nothing compares to consulting a current (or even former) student of the college. Current students can provide valuable information of the campus life and their personal experiences that you simply can’t get from a virtual tour. If you know someone personally who attended the college, don’t be afraid to reach out! Students love to discuss their experiences with prospective students. If you don’t know anyone, there are online communities to find current students. Most schools will have the contact information of current students or tour guides who you can reach out to. If that’s too formal for you, head over to social media sites like Facebook, Instagram, or even Reddit to find students of a particular college. Otherwise, college review forums like Niche or College Confidential can provide really candid insight into the college experience. When you’re speaking to current students, don’t shy away from personal questions like “Why did you choose to go to this school?” or “What is your favorite and least favorite part of going to this school?”
Continue to show interest
In the past, some schools have taken campus tours into account when evaluating a student for admission as a signal of “demonstrated interest.” As COVID-19 has made campus tours nearly impossible for many, colleges will most likely consider other ways that prospective students show demonstrated interest. Take advantage of other opportunities to show your interest in a school, from emailing admissions officers to attending Zoom information sessions. Admissions offices definitely understand that this summer is a challenging time to be applying for colleges, but try to make the most of other offerings if you can.
Don’t underestimate the power of a virtual college tour as you make a list of colleges and plan your applications for the upcoming admissions cycle. Remember that there are other steps, both before and after the tour, to make the most of a virtual college admissions process. By doing a little research, consulting current students, and continuing to show interest in colleges, you will learn as much as possible and effectively prepare for the application season even from your home.